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Contentions

Seminars and Serious Questions

As the serial seminars continue, the front-page headline yesterday on the New York Times was “Brother of Afghan Leader Said to Be Paid by CIA.” The article did not waste any time getting to its point: the news “raises significant questions about America’s war strategy.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry issued a press release stating it was news to him and raised “serious questions”:

“After reading press accounts which allege that Mr. Karzai has been on the payroll of the CIA, one of the agencies gathering intelligence about narcotics trafficking in Afghanistan, I have serious questions about the information that Congress is receiving. On questions this serious, it is imperative that we receive reliable, current and accurate information. …

The appropriate congressional committees must be immediately provided with the most comprehensive and untainted information about his alleged entanglements.”

Over at the State Department, there was this comedy-silver exchange with Spokesman Ian Kelly:

QUESTION: Ian, quite apart from any report that may have appeared today or in the recent past, what does the Administration think about President Karzai’s brother?

MR. KELLY: What do we think about his brother? I don’t know that we necessarily have a view on his brother. I mean, we support the government of President Karzai, and our views are very well known on that.

QUESTION: Well, what do you think of the influence his brother might wield?

MR. KELLY: I don’t think I necessarily have that kind of information.

QUESTION: Okay. Perhaps then maybe you can [give] the guidance you have for the question that you were expecting.

MR. KELLY: You’ve got to ask me the question before I read the guidance. I’m happy to read the guidance, if you’ll ask me the question.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: What about reports that President Karzai’s brother is being paid by the CIA for various activities?

MR. KELLY: We don’t comment on intelligence matters.

One would have thought the serious questions had been resolved long ago. On March 27, President Obama announced his “comprehensive, new strategy” after a “careful policy review … ordered as soon as I took office” that reflected input from “our military commanders, as well as our diplomats” and consultations with Afghanistan, Pakistan, NATO allies, and international organizations working “closely” with members of Congress.

According to Rahm Emanuel, Obama is now asking “the questions that have never been asked on the civilian side, the political side, the military side and the strategic side.” Obama’s current review of his own comprehensive new strategy has now taken him longer than it took him to adopt the strategy in the first place.



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